America’s current political state has the country waiting with bated breath for the first Black Vice President, Kamala Harris. Very few people know or even remember that not too long ago, there was a Black Gay man who was nominated for that position as well.
Mel Boozer has the distinction of being nominated at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), becoming the first openly Black and gay person to be nominated for such a high office. He received just short of 50 votes, but in a poignant speech, he declined the nomination. He urged delegates to help fight discrimination against people who are Black and gay.
This was an international moment for Black gay men and women; it was a culmination of years of personal growth by Boozer to stand and say, “I am.”
Boozer grew up in the ghettos of Washington D.C., graduating near the very top of his high school class (salutatorian). He went on to study at Dartmouth College, one of three Black students admitted in 1963.
Graduating from Dartmouth in 1967 with a degree in sociology, Boozer was able to spend many years in Brazil volunteering for the Peace Corp. In Brazil, he acknowledged and accepted his sexuality.
Returning to the United States in the mid-70s, Boozer completed graduate work at Yale University. While studying for his PhD., he explored Greenwich Village’s gay community. And after completing his Ph.D., he became a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. It was during this time that Boozer became more active in the D.C. gay rights scene.
In 1979, Boozer was selected to be president of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) of Washington, D.C., where he served two terms. Serving as the first Black GAA president, he became “a leading moderate voice among Black gays nationally.” While president of the GAA, he helped the organization win unanimous passage of the Sexual Assault Reform Act by the D. C. Council, which decriminalized sodomy and rescinded solicitation laws for consenting adults.
In 1980, Mel Boozer was given the distinct honor of being nominated for Vice President by the Socialist Party USA and by petition at the Democratic National Convention. His speech was televised nationally during prime-time T.V. In this speech, he admonished the party to support LGBT people. The following quote has been much noted,
“Would you ask me how I dare to compare the civil rights struggle with the struggle for lesbian and gay rights? I can compare them, and I do compare them because I know what it means to be called a ‘nigger,’ and I know what it means to be called a ‘faggot,’ and I understand the differences in the marrow of my bones. And I can sum up that difference in one word: none.”
Bishop Hartsel Clifton Shirley is an author, writer, singer/songwriter, and bishop from Waterloo, Iowa. He received his master’s degree in business from the International Business Management Institute based in Berlin, Germany.
Currently residing in Atlanta, Mr. Shirley is a bishop of National and International Social Action, part of New Direction Overcomers’ International Fellowship (based in Richmond, Virginia).
A multi-faceted talent, Hartsel is a writer, author, and singer/songwriter. A bronze prize winner of the International Society of Poets, he has penned editorials for the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier. His best-selling novel is entitled Three Words, Four Letters, published by Ishai Books. Additionally, Hartsel hascharted at #1 several times on the ReverbNation pop music charts.
Inspired by Langston Hughes, Bishop Shirley states, “I write what moves me. There is nothing I can’t write. I just have to care about it so I can write truthfully.”
Hartsel’s upcoming works include Three Words and Four Letters–the second and third installments of his first novel–along with his third music project, Rebel with A Cause.
Mr. Evans has reported and written for print and on line media outlets including the HuffingtonPost, The Washington Post, The Advocate, Bilerico, BaltimoreOUTloud, Washington Post, Baltimore Gay Life and the Washington Blade. His series of articles on issues such as Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A), Relationships, Depression, and Racism strongly resonate with the LGBTQ Community and its Allies.
To read his work for HUFF PO, visit: https://huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/
Mr. Evans has written an in-depth, multi-part and award-winning series on racism within the LGBTQ Community for Bilerico..
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